Volkswagen has apologised for forcing 10 monkeys to breathe in diesel engine fumes to test their toxicity in emissions tests that have since been discredited.
Volkswagen’s drawn-out diesel emissions scandal has prompted another apology from the German car-maker after media reports that it had been complicit in allowing monkeys to inhale car fumes to test the toxicity of diesel emissions.
“We are convinced, that the scientific methods chosen at the time were wrong,” said the company in a statement on Saturday. “It would have been better to forgo such a test from the very beginning.”
It also denounced all forms of animal abuse. “We ask forgiveness for this bad behaviour and for the poor judgment of some individuals.”
The New York Times broke the story this week about an Albuquerque research facility where 10 monkeys were locked in an airtight container, watching cartoons to distract them as they breathed in fumes from a Volkswagen Beetle.
Tying this scandal to the larger one, the Beetle in question had been rigged to emit fewer fumes during testing scenarios, an effort to spoof tests. The 2015 revelation of the practice has been the source of international litigation and market problems for the company ever since.
The test was conducted by the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in the US state of New Mexico. German car-makers Daimler and BMW also supported the project, though VW had the lead in organisation with the help of a European research institute.
The German state of Lower Saxony, which is also a major owner of Volkswagen, also reacted with shock on Saturday and demanded full disclosure about the 2014 tests. It also demanded assurances that such tests never happen again.
“Letting 10 monkeys breathe in car emissions for hours to prove that there has been a reduction in the amount of poisonous emissions is horrid and absurd,” said state Premier Stephan Weil.
The experiment began in 2014 in Albuquerque: ten monkeys were placed in air-tight chambers in the laboratory. For the study, they took two old cars – Ford and VW Beetle pickup (in turn) – they started the engines and brought the exhaust pipes of the cars into the room with the monkeys. That those were not nervous, they were shown funny cartoons during the experiment.
These experiments painfully resemble something that seems to be long forgotten. According to the New York Times, controlled the project concern Volkswagen. According to the correspondence of a former VW employee in October 2013, it was initially proposed to involve volunteers for the experiment, but then they decided to dwell on monkeys, since people’s participation could negatively set the public against the experiment itself and its conclusions.
Then, apparently, the partners disagreed about the research, and Daimler and BMW left the project and distanced themselves from the research. In addition, Daimler argues that at the time of launching the project was not yet aware of the deceptive devices that used VW.
At first, the Volkswagen group also tried to distance itself from the research and noted that the concern was against all forms of animal abuse, but after a while it had to apologize for a test that used monkeys breathing in diesel emissions from VW Beetle.
The company said the study was a mistake and should not have been done at all. Volkswagen said that a research group of three automakers ceased operations last year, and the project was never completed.
Moreover, it has been proven that the car was actually adjusted to emit less exhaust during testing. This falsification has led to international litigation and numerous problems for the company.
The authorities of the state of Lower Saxony, in whose territory Volkswagen plants are also located, demanded full disclosure of information about the tests in 2014 and assurances that such tests would never be repeated.
“It’s terrible and absurd to make 10 monkeys breathe car emissions for a few hours to prove that they have reduced the amount of toxic emissions,” said Lower Saxony Prime Minister Stefan Weil.